Mr. Dedric Bonds, one of our own beloved teachers, came to speak to us about a part of South Carolina’s history. He is currently publishing a book on the subject, and was delighted by the chance to share it with us. The subject in question is the life of Joseph H. Rainey, a Georgetown local who made history when he was elected to the Senate.
Mr Rainey was born to former slaves. His father was a barber, and Rainey learned the trade from him. Little is known about his early life, but in the 1850s he travelled to Philadelphia, where he met his future wife Susan. The two of them returned to South Carolina, where Rainey continued his work as a barber. However, during the Civil War he was recruited to serve the Confederate Army. As soon as they got the chance, he and his family escaped the war on a boat bound for Bermuda, where they would live for many years.
After the war was over, Rainey and his family returned to South Carolina. He began to get involved in politics, representing the Republican party first at local levels and then for the state. In 1870, he became the first African-American ever elected to the United States Senate. While serving as Senator, he supported many influential bills, such as the Anti-KKK Act. Eventually he returned to Georgetown, where he died and was buried in the “Baptist Cemetery.” To this day, his grave has not been found. Although his name has been largely forgotten, Joseph H. Rainey made history and should always be remembered for his accomplishments. Thank you, Mr Bonds, for enlightening us on this fascinating period of history.